I will take you through another one of my creations. This one is a commission for a former colleague of mine. The denotation is the story of when Moses and the Hebrews were backed up to the Red Sea, with mountains on one side, the Egyptian army on the other, and the Shekinah pillar of cloud/fire as a guide and protection.
This first stage shows the pre-mounted and primed lauan with a preliminary sketch and squirted line drawing. The lauan has to be sized with a cement adhesive (commonly used in preparation for stucco application) before receiving a thin layer of plaster compound as a primer. If I'm going to create an abstract piece that requires no sketch, I will further prepare the surface by combing that thin layer of primer (that allows for textured surface that will grab subsequent layers of plaster).
The squirted line comes in various pigments depending on local color. After this line has dried and is lightly sanded, it acts as not only a boarder for filling shapes or areas, but it creates a bead which allows for a consistent level of material.
I begin to fill in some of those spaces with premixed plaster and pigment (tempera paint). For more organic areas, I keep the mixing of the material to a minimum. This makes for a more mottled look in a space for, let's say, the mountains.
Powdered fabric dye is sprinkled over the wet plaster in some areas for additional visual texture. Combing lines are incorporated to a) add even more texture, b) create space for the third and maybe fourth layers of material, and c) suggest form through structural lines.
The window allowing for manipulation of the material is wide: about 30-40 minutes (if in a relatively cool room and away from direct sunlight). If additional texture is desired, then specific layers can be exposed to direct sunlight at different times of the day and for particular periods of time.
Also, when doing a more representational piece like this one, some care needs to be exercised in filling alternating spaces. This just keeps the pigments from "contaminating" adjacent areas (overflow can be easily cleaned up on a dry surface).
In this example, you can see the third layer where it has been added to the previous layer combing lines. The pigment for that layer is typically darker, for the purpose of contrast and conveying shaded planes.
You can see the mixing spot where I blend the plaster and tempera paint for smaller spaces. A plastic lid serves as a palette for larger amounts, and a margarine bowl for still larger quantities.
(continued next month)